by Matt Fraction (writer), Salvador Larroca (art), Frank D’Armata (colors), and Joe Caramagna (letters)

The Story: Tony discovers unexpected problems while Pepper finds herself faced by both Sasha Hammer’s Hammer Corps and the Worthy-fied Grey Gargoyle.

What’s Good: Pepper Potts to the rescue!  Really, were it not for her, this would’ve been a pretty drab issue.  But instead, we get lots of Pepper Potts in her Rescue suit playing the superhero, which is always fun.

While seeing her rumble with the Grey Gargoyle and the Hammer Corps would be fun either way, Sasha Hammer’s presence makes it all the juicier.  Matt Fraction does well in drawing upon the history these two have from way back in the very first arc of Invincible Iron Man, reminding us of the fact that Sasha is a big reason why Pepper has a repulsor in her chest to begin with.  Naturally, the two have bad blood with one another and seeing them clash like this is a lot of fun.  Better still is that Fraction looks like he’s going to force the two to team up out of necessity.  It’s an awesome dynamic and it’s always great to see writers make good use of previous material.

On Tony’s end, the strongest element is the lingering spectre of his alcoholism, as he quietly falls deeper down the well.  The last page is haunting stuff that promises dark things to come, as the booze begins to take effect on Tony’s intellect.  Suffice it to say, it appears that we’re moving past the humorous part of drunken Tony.

But really, Pepper is the star of the show here, and if you’re a fan of her (as I imagine everyone reading Fraction’s Invincible Iron Man is), you get some really good stuff here.  Her fight scenes are great and I love how Fraction is turning Sasha into her own personal nemesis.

Oh, and hey, Rescue fighting the Hammer Corps also means that Salvador Larroca gets to do a lot of what he’s best at: drawing robots/machines blowing shit up and beating the piss out of each other.

What’s Not So Good: Unfortunately, Tony’s portion really holds this issue down, first and foremost because it’s just not all that interesting overall.

Sadly, Fraction also holds onto the running joke of the runic-obscured curse-words of the foul-mouthed dwarves, which stopped being funny about a third of the way through last month’s issue.  At this point, it’s more irritating than anything else.  Worse still, much like last month, Larroca seems unable to draw appropriate facial expressions to accompany this profanity-laced dialogue.  Instead of looking surly and grumpy, the dwarves and end up appearing glassy-eyed and ambivalent, at complete odds with the dialogue.

Beyond that, there’s nothing terribly wrong with Tony’s portion of the issue, it’s just not overly engaging and anything interesting that occurs is entirely set-up for future issues.  The complications of forging weapons are only barely introduced as a tease for next month, and the same goes for the mysterious forces plotting Tony’s death in Svartalfheim.

Conclusion: Pepper Potts saves the day, making something generally enjoyable out of an otherwise humdrum issue.

Grade: B-

-Alex Evans